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The Picky Eater Likes Marmalade
December 23, 2012

A by-product of working college breaks at Crabtree & Evelyn with a generous store discount was that my entire family could count on Crabtree & Evelyn Christmas presents, meticulously-wrapped (as I had been rigorously taught) in stiff navy blue wrapping paper emblazoned with the Crabtree & Evelyn logo.

As you may or may not know, in addition to scads of products that make your skin, house, and hair smell like something other than they normally do, Crabtree & Evelyn also has a modest "comestibles" section. That is, food. So while my two sisters received various assortments of bath gels, soaps, and lotions, my mom usually got loose English breakfast tea matched with a particularly difficult-to-wrap tin sleeve of lemon shortbread cookies, and my dad got jars of his favorite Seville orange, rough-cut marmalade.

I was just as happy to munch my mother's cookies and tea while watching episodes of To the Manor Born with her for the 100th time, as I was thrilled to leave my dad's marmalade strictly alone. There was something not-quite-right about marmalade. It was chunky and viscous in all the wrong ways, it had orange peel in it (peel -- the part you throw away!), and it was intentionally bitter which, at a time before bitterness was an actual taste I craved, was the most off-putting element of all.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this site or my book on the subject that I am a bit...picky when it comes to jam and jellies. First of all, the jam or jelly must be either strawberry or raspberry. I'm not into grape, apricot, peach, or gooseberry. Secondly, it must be fairly smooth with precious little texture and certainly no big chunks of stewed fruit. In fact, the only thing chewable about my jam or jelly should be the toast on which it perches.

I have lived a perfectly rich and happy life within these toast spread parameters. That is, until last week when Rachel's Christmas present arrived. Along with her typical, but ever-changing, assortment of delicious baked goods (pumpkin bread, gingerbread cookies, and Mexican wedding cookies this time), Rachel included a squat glass pot of Clementine and Honey Marmalade.

Since it's been over a decade that I started, bit by bit, to leave my picky past behind me, there was really no reason not to see if my opinion on marmalade had changed. Granted, marmalade wasn't ever going to be something I'd actively go out and buy, but a Christmas present? Yeah, I'll try that. And why not? I still see myself as an ever evolving eater -- shedding my picky hide and growing a fresh new foodie skin -- who is open to being converted. (Except where bananas and raisins are concerned, because I just can't.)

This marmalade is immediately bright and sweet, but its true attraction hinges on the welcome bitter edge that keeps the sweetness from being too cloying. It's the ideal balance for me as I realize that marmalade is jam for grown-ups. The thin strips of rind provide a texture that doesn't offend, but simply enhances the entire eating experience.

On a bone-chilling wet day, Rachel's Christmas present has me smearing shiny masses of sunshine across my toast. However, I still pledge not to buy marmalade at the store. I'll just let Rachel make it for me.

Rachel used the Serious Eats recipe to make her picky eater-converting marmalade. The only change she made was to slice the clementine rind into thin strips, rather than keep it a rough chop.

Serious Eats Honey-Tangerine Marmalade

Yield: Makes 6 cups or 6 half-pint jars


7 to 8 medium tangerines
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons low- or no-sugar-needed powdered fruit pectin
1/4 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey


1. Wash the tangerines and remove the rind in quarters. Thinly slice the rind lengthwise, then roughly chop them crosswise into smaller pieces. Transfer the rind to a large pot and add 2 cups of water and the baking soda. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the rinds have softened, 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the tangerines and remove any seeds. Transfer the tangerines to a food processor and pulse until the pieces are broken up but still chunky, about 8 pulses. Add the tangerines to the pot with the rind. Stir in the butter and pectin and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and the honey and return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute.

3. Remove the pot from the heat and skim any foam from the surface of the marmalade with a cold metal spoon. Ladle the marmalade into hot sterilized jars and process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

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Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic